With the coming school year right around the corner, this is an excellent time to take steps to encourage your child to read. I truly believe that every child can learn to love reading. If you have a child who is unenthusiastic about reading, I hope that one or more of the tips below will help you ignite a love of reading in your child.
1. Throw out that summer reading list.
It is a rare adult who — for fun — reads through a booklist compiled without regard for his or her interests or tastes. If you want your child to have fun reading, it seems unwise to ask your child to read through a booklist compiled without regard for your child’s interests or tastes.
If not books from a summer reading list, then what should my child read?
Encourage your child to choose his or her own books. Head to the library, and enthusiastically help your child find any book — and I mean any — that interests them. I have spent recent library trips enthusiastically helping my children track down Strawberry Shortcake graphic novels, Garfield cartoons and Pokemon books.
In addition, check out a few extra books that you think your child might enjoy. The goal is to gently encourage your child to expand their reading horizons.
Consider checking out:
- A magazine (e.g. Ask, Ranger Rick or Sports Illustrated).
- A nonfiction book about a topic that interests your child (e.g. birds, soccer, dance, rocks or dinosaurs).
- A trivia book or joke book (e.g. The Guinness Book of World Records or National Geographic Kids Just Joking).
- A humorous book.
- A new picture book series.
- A new chapter book series.
- If you have an emerging reader, a book that your emerging reader can read all by themselves. (See 20 Fantastic Books for Kids Learning to Read and 15 More Fantastic Books for Kids Learning to Read.)
Summer reading lists are valuable for helping children who are voracious readers branch out and discover new books. If your child falls into the voracious reader category, look here for book recommendations: 37 Super Summer Reading Lists for Kids Ages 0-10. However, if your child does not fall into the voracious reader category, a summer reading list may cause more harm than good, turning what should be a fun activity into a tedious or intimidating one.
2. Cut back on your child’s screen time, including time spent watching television and playing with iPads, iPhones etc.
This one is tough. As a fellow parent, I know that you do not want to wade into screen time battles with your child. I also know that screens are, in many circumstances, convenient parenting tools.
At the same time, imposing restrictions on screen time is, I think, critically important for freeing up time for children to read (and play). Screen time restrictions can take many forms. You could restrict screen use to that dreaded hour before dinner or to one set time per week. Only you can make the call about what is going to work for your family. Speaking from personal experience, if you were to suddenly outlaw screen use during car rides, your child would initially protest but then adjust surprisingly quickly. Both you and your child would survive the transition.
Do not make your child read instead of watching television. Pitting screen time against reading time is likely to make your child loath reading. Simply restrict screen time, and let your child decide whether to spend the extra time that is freed up playing outside, building with legos or, on occasion, picking up a book.
Entice your child to read by making books readily available. Put a nightstand or box of books next to your child’s bed. Keep a box of books in your car. Stick a couple books in your purse or backpack to pull out while you and your child are waiting at the doctor’s office.
4. Read aloud to your child.
Some children with little interest in reading alone will jump at the chance to read with a parent or other adult. As an added bonus, reading aloud to children promotes literacy — even for children who already know how to read.
When you read to your child, model how much fun reading books can be. Choose books that both you and your child enjoy.
Remember that read aloud time need not happen right before bed. During the summers at our house, evening activities often interfere with read aloud time. Instead, I spend the most time reading aloud to my kids first thing in the morning. Be on the lookout for opportunities to read aloud that best fit into your family’s summer schedule.
Public libraries have your back in your quest to help your child learn to love reading. Public libraries have been going to great lengths this summer to entice children to visit the library. They have been showing free movies, hosting magicians and storytellers etc. Take a look at the activities your local public library has planned for the rest of the summer.
Please, share your tips for encouraging children to read below! How have you been encouraging your child to read this summer? What has worked, and what hasn’t? If your child recently learned to enjoy reading, what first sparked their interest in reading?